Do People Adapt to Homelessness? The Role of Social Networks
Last September, Phil and I went to Cambridge to give a presentation based on our findings from the homelessness research. It was a social psychology conference, so talked about the social networks of the individuals we interviewed. The slides we used are below. Note that when we talk about social networks here, we refer to friendships, not family or intimate/sexual relationships.
We can contribute more to this discussion because the life story approach we took to our research enables us to look further into the past of an individual’s life and establish the roles of different friendships over time.
While we accept that individuals life stories are all different, there were some commonalities among many of the young people in terms of how they viewed these friendships. In very basic terms, many of them made friends with the ‘wrong crowd’ during their high school years and frequently used drink and drugs and engaged in some low-level crime etc. (see quotes for these in the slides). In their post-school years, they often disengaged with these networks when they realised they wanted something more or different in their lives.
The third part of their life story where they discussed friendships was when they were in the hostel. This was often perceived as a time of renewal for many of our interviewees (more quotes in the slides). It is here where we begin to question the strength of the hypothesis above, that: “the longer young people are homeless, the more they adapt to homelessness as a way of life”. We should be very careful as researchers in making such claims: because of the experiences that people have reported to us in this research, I am doubtful of the claim this hypothesis makes and believe it to be potentially dangerous in undermining the role of hostel accommodation and the potential for friendships made there.
I will continue to work on this analysis and welcome any feedback from others…
- Do you think that people adapt to homelessness?
- Do you think that other people have a role in sustaining a person’s homelessness, or helping people out of it, or perhaps both?
Entry filed under: Findings, Homelessness services, Young people. Tags: Cambridge, crime, friendship, homeless, homeless way of life, homelessness, hostel, Research, social adaptation, Social network, social psychology conference, substance misuse, wrong crowd.